Nebraska’s Fire Runs Hot
By Paul Myerberg // Nov 21, 2010
Blaming the officiating is a start, even though it’s an unsatisfying conversation. Yes, a few calls didn’t go Nebraska’s way last night, though it’s hard to say whether one or two fewer flags would have meant the difference in its 9-6 loss at Texas A&M. Now, five or six fewer flags? Well, there’s a point where you do have to wonder why the nation’s ninth-most penalized team is drawing only a pair of flags all evening — this thought does enter your mind. Nebraska’s 16 penalties, on the other hand? Again, there’s a point where the Cornhuskers need to acknowledge the fact that there were a few bad calls, but the onus for such a sloppy performance falls right in their own lap.
I’m not providing an out for this officiating crew, which did an amazingly poor job throughout the evening. In fact, the best call this team made all evening was a flag they picked up: a pass interference call, one that would have given Nebraska a first down well inside the A&M red zone, was correctly ruled as good coverage.
But blame away, Nebraska, if it makes you feel better. It might. Yet it shouldn’t. The Cornhuskers have far bigger things to worry about, such as the demeanor of a coach — and his top assistant — that remains this team’s greatest asset and biggest weakness. Nebraska’s fire runs hot, to be sure, but it comes at the cost of discipline, as we saw last night.
A nice time lapse photography project: Bo Pelini’s face — and veins — throughout the game, beginning at kickoff and running through a Taylor Martinez incompletion that ended the game. Red, redder, reddest. My take: Nebraska’s already fragile hold on its emotions was lost once Pelini blew his gasket.
This isn’t that hard a leap to take, nor am I suggesting anything new. Never before, however, has Pelini’s — and his brother Carl’s — lack of sideline etiquette draw so much attention, nor cost his team so much. I’m not suggesting that Pelini’s vitriol aimed at the officiating crew wasn’t justified, at least somewhat, or that his constant attacks led the crew to flag Nebraska an additional two, three, four times.
The Cornhuskers take their cue from Pelini — every team takes its cue from the head coach. It might be said that in 2010, Texas has become too much like Mack Brown: a little too nice, not physical enough, a little too clean. Nebraska is no different. This anger, this us-against-the-world mentality that has pervaded the program since last season’s Big 12 title game has gotten the Cornhuskers this far; last night, the same anger took over. We saw the results.
In this instance, Nebraska needed to calm down; it needed its coach, Pelini, to calm down. He didn’t. As a result, the team played tight. Now, the big question: was Pelini’s anger justified?
Of course. At least to a degree. A roughing the passer call — it might have been a late hit — was ludicrous. An early flag, as well as an ensuing unsportsmanlike penalty, came as a result of some extracurricular goings-on following a fumble. The official who threw the flag against Nebraska’s Ben Cotton — the sophomore tight end kicked out, like a horse, at an A&M player — missed the gouging given to Cotton by that same player.
The officials were bad. Pelini was just as bad — though not worse, I should add. His brother Carl, however, if this video tells the whole story, is on a whole other level: there’s never an excuse to storm after a photographer after the game, if that’s what occurred. I don’t know if that’s what happened, to be fair. It seems, from seeing the video, that Pelini didn’t want to be caught making a comment or gesture towards an A&M fan, coach or player.
He went for the camera, and according to the photographer, grabbed the camera and tried to rip it loose before breaking off the eye piece and tossing it into the crowd. If this did occur — and it might be overblown — it’s simply another instance of Nebraska’s fire, the determination that makes this team so tough, getting the best of the Cornhuskers once again.
Nebraska’s a great team. Pelini is a wonderful coach, perhaps the finest defensive mind in the country. The Cornhuskers will be competitive — at least — as long as he leads the program. However, I’m not sure if Nebraska will ever return to the top of college football unless it comes to grips with — and controls — the anger that bubbles forth with the slightest provocation.
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Tags: Bo Pelini, Carl Pelini, Nebraska
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